FSA loses court battle over meat inspection charges

The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers has won a £1m court battle with the Food Standards Agency over meat inspection charges.

The Hon Justice Singh has granted a claim brought by 38 slaughterhouse operators in a judicial review, organised by AIMS, to challenge the legality of FSA bills totalling in the region of £1m for meat inspection “underpayments”.

At a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on Friday (28 June), it was ruled that invoices the FSA sent out to abattoirs for “EU minima payments” for 2011-12 were unlawful.

Outstanding invoices do not now have to be paid and FSA must repay any that have already been paid. In addition, the claimants were awarded their costs.

The FSA has until the 12 July to apply to the judge for permission to appeal.

EU minima payments are the minimum rate per animal that EU member states should collect to pay for meat inspection at abattoirs.

Prior to 2009 the FSA charged slaughterhouses this minimum rate but in 2009 the agency introduced a time-based charging system.

At the end of the year it was found in some cases that the bills were less than the EU minima that the FSA was required to collect.

However, the FSA when it changed its charging regulations it did not include a provision to recover the EU minimum charges, which means that attempts to do so have been challenged.

An FSA spokesperson said: “This outcome helps to clarify the interpretation of the regulations, and the FSA welcomes that clarification. We will consider the detail of the judgment and will be making our proposed course of action clear as soon as practicable.”

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